Supports for Children and Families Among Essential Funding Priorities
Published June 29, 2021
As Texas and states across the nation lift COVID-19 regulations, people, organizations and businesses alike are transitioning from survival and stabilization to rebuilding and recovering. At the root of this recovery will be addressing the pervasive health inequities and looking deeply at how we can address the systemic barriers that were exposed and exacerbated throughout the pandemic. Key to this work is identifying areas where we can address gaps in services, establishing and fostering connection points for families and children to receive better support and care and – in coordination and collaboration with community partners and leaders – commit to advancing health equity across our region.
We are privileged to share the grant recipients of our 2021 spring grants cycle totaling $24,513,946 reflected across our strategic priorities. Highlighted here are grants fostering the conditions that support a thriving childhood, a challenge made more urgent by the COVID-19 pandemic and its effect on our community. Reflected in this amount are 20 grants that provided urgent funding to support the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines and recovery from the winter storm totaling $1,360,000.
Funding for Impact
In advancing this work, we’re looking across the lifespan at periods that present both high vulnerability and opportunity to influence improved health and well-being: from birth to end-of-life experiences. The work of our spring grant recipients reflects efforts ranging from perinatal and infant-focused support to partnerships with rural school districts to increase parent involvement in their child’s education journey. Also reflected in this grant cycle is the value of the local health care infrastructure including free and charitable clinics across Central Texas, to creating a culture of health in the rural communities, including innovative solutions to support low-income adults with access to medical appointments.
Several of our grant recipients operating in this space include:
- Mother’s Milk Bank of Austin, which will train women of color as doulas and lactation consultants, benefitting infants at a time when their brain architecture is most likely to be impacted by the mother-child bond;
- Alliance for Strong Families and Communities, which will support bringing a health equity lens to a cohort of 10 community-based organizations seeking to apply emerging concepts of brain development to their work in order to secure improved outcomes for their clients;
- UpTogether (previously Family Independence Initiative), which will help low-income families connect with each other and provide access to resources to grow income and assets within their communities;
- Lockhart ISD, which will implement a parent-liaison program, engaging with parents to work in schools with high student absenteeism, fostering additional conditions for children to succeed;
- Transportation for Living, which will pilot a new service that offers low-income older adults transportation to medical appointments and other destinations that support healthy and active partnership with Aetna and CVS.
A complete list of our 2021 spring grant recipients can be found here.
Science-based Guidance to Foster Resilient Children
The global pandemic disrupted many aspects of life, including in-person education and daycare operations, undermining the routines and relationships children and adolescents require for healthy development. Research shows us that the first 8 years of a child’s life build a foundation for future health and life success, and stressors in early childhood can disrupt neurologic, metabolic, and immunologic systems, leading to poorer developmental outcomes. Understanding the profound, situational impact, St. David’s Foundation has sought to focus on grant recipients that can help strengthen the factors that foster healthy outcomes for children.
According to Harvard University’s Center of the Developing Child, three science-based principles that improve outcomes for children and families are:
- Supporting responsive relationships for children and adults – Responsive relationships build sturdy brain architecture, support overall well-being, and buffer children and adults from toxic stress.
- Strengthening core skills for planning, adapting, and achieving goals – A set of essential skills to manage life, work, and relationships successfully. These include planning, focus, self-control, awareness, and flexibility.
- Reducing sources of stress in the lives of children and families – Excessive activation of the body’s stress response can overload the brain and other organ systems, affecting healthy development and making it difficult to use core life skills.
The pandemic also created a surge in unemployment and economic decline for many families. As a result, food insecurity rose sharply as parents and relatives left the workforce. At the end of 2020, 21% of Texas households with children reported not having enough food to eat. These economic challenges increased stress levels among parents, creating higher levels of family hardship. Moreover, equity gaps continue to persist along income and racial/ethnic lines, where children younger than 18 who are poor and live in rural areas are more likely to be negatively impacted by COVID-19.
“The challenges of the last year have made clear the need to build a stronger early childhood ecosystem. While the cumulative threats of the pandemic, economic disruptions, and deeply embedded racism and other structural inequities have imposed real hardships on families with young children, we have also witnessed a community response to these challenges that is nothing short of heroic. From childcare workers, teachers and medical staff to community volunteers and neighbors, many have gone beyond their traditional roles and comfort zones to try and meet the demands of this unprecedented period. The work represented in these grants is a testament to that commitment — and a chance to harness some of the innovation born out of necessity as the building blocks for a better tomorrow.”
– Kim McPherson, Senior Program Officer
Partnering for a Brighter Tomorrow
The Foundation remains committed to partnering with the community today to build a stronger and more equitable tomorrow, as well as continuing to navigate the new world in which we live together. Across all our goals and principles, we remain steadfast in our effort to advance health equity through systems change, a strengths-based approach and the fostering of social connection.
You can learn about upcoming funding opportunities here.
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